Long story short, there's a large company that I had an account with that says I owe them a significant amount of money. I have never been able to get ahold of anyone that can actually discuss my case; the ONLY contact I have had has been through email and most of that was form emails: "you owe us money, here's how to pay" and "We apologize, but we are unable to provide the information you requested. Please rate our customer service"). This is now affecting my credit; I have disputed the charge with the credit reporting bureaus but they say that the creditor has verified the debt. Meaning one computer told another computer it's legit.
Can I take the company to small claims court for the amount they say I owe them? Is there other action I can take besides a complaint with the FTC?
Possibly, but hard to say based on the facts you described. As stated, a small claims court won't have jurisdiction over a FCRA or FDCPA claim.
First, debt validation only applies to a company that is collecting a debt that it did not originate. For example, if the debt was originally with Chase and now it is NCO calling, NCO needs to validate. However, if it is Chase calling, they don't need to validate. Second, what constitutes validation is a very low bar. You might be expecting too much from the validation process. Assuming we are talking about a 3rd party (not the originator of the debt), the only thing they need to tell you is the name and address of the original creditor and the balance due. Poof, that is validation. All this other crap you see floating around about all this other information that is needed has no (very little) basis in law.
Debt Settlement Attorney
I agree with the answers by Attorney Bollinger and Attorney Berkus and would like to add that oftentimes an item will have to be disputed several times with the credit bureaus before they seriously investigate the issue. Dispute in writing, send by certified mail, and keep accurate records. You should be prepared to dispute anywhere between two to five times with some bureaus. If the debt is deemed invalid and you can show damages that arose after the item was disputed and not corrected, then you may have a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. As my colleague advised, the FDCPA only applies to debt collectors, not original creditors. Speak to a local consumer lawyer for more information.
This is not legal advice. Seek a consultation with an attorney in your jurisdiction. An attorney/client relationship is not sought or formed by the participation in this website. I am licensed to practice law in New York and New Jersey.
It isn't clear from your description whether you disputed the debt with your creditor directly via physical mail. It is an approach that sometimes gets better results than phone calls or emails. Do some research about the company first. Try to address your grievance to a person or department that would seem to typically deal with these disputes (legal dept.). Include documentation that supports the contention that you do not owe the debt. Under Sec. 623 of the FCRA, the "furnisher" of the information (the creditor) must respond and correct any inaccuracies.
You may have a right of action, but it won't be in small claims court.